Rustic Tradition Blends with Modern Business: Olive Oil Production at Frantoio Marfuga
Questo articolo è il risultato della collaborazione tra SapereFood e Umbra Institute, filiale italiana di alcuni college e università statunitensi con sede a Perugia. Dopo un approfondimento sul settore agroalimentare e sullle tecniche di scrittura giornalistica, gli studenti di Umbra Institute hanno visitato alcune importanti aziende della regione, raccontando la loro esperienza sul campo e contribuendo a diffondere la qualità alimentare dell’Umbria all’estero.
by Gerard Pozzi
Frantoio Marfuga, situated in a picturesque valley between the hills of Campello sul Clitunno, is deeply rooted in tradition with an elegant modern twist. Owner Francesco Gradassi’s primary focus is on the quality of his company’s olive oil and on transmitting to the public the opulent relationship between tree and soil, culture and landscape that has been preserved over generations throughout Umbria.
Composed of forty hectares of grove, some of which reach up to 1,200 meters in altitude, Marfuga’s property grows three varieties of olive, the most prevalent being Moraiolo, and the others include Frantoio and Leccino. Upon entering the main building, one sees the product as something far superior and more sophisticated than an oil. The company rightfully advertises the healthful properties of its oil extracted from its impressive modern equipment. The facility is spotless and the machinery used to press the olives is of excellent make. The olives are harvested in the period between October and November, using a mechanized comb or by hand. Within 24 hours, they are processed in the mill and the oil is extracted for bottling into a more refined product. The leftover oil of lesser quality is added into their cosmetic products.
Marfuga sells several types of oil. Novello, an unfiltered, vibrant green oil is produced with olives from a period before they mature. The Umbria DOP Colli Assisi-Spoleto is a blend of Moraiolo, Leccino, and Frantoio, and is characterized by its herbaceous flavor, which won it the golden medal from the National Ercole Olivario Competition in 2013. Next, the Affiorante is a 100% Moraiolo oil, with a production size of only 5,000 bottles per year, and is the highest-quality product Marfuga offers. Trees for harvesting undergo careful selection for very specific characteristics and exposure to sun, and consequently the oil produced is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols. Finally, Marfuga’s organic production consists of cold pressed olives, the classic extra virgin from ripe olives.
The heart of the company that deserves such applaud and global recognition lies not only in the quality of the product, but also how the use of innovative technology dovetailed with tradition build the product. It was warming to see the olive trees and consequently taste the aromatic, herbaceous, and sharp oil, an exceptionally vibrant flavor over a rustic bruschetta. It was clear on our visit how much work the harvesting entails, combing through each tree, meanwhile selecting for the most appropriate fruits.
At the Frantoio, a rustic, worn oil mill dating back to 1100AD rests outside the facility, overlooking the modern operations. Similarly, Francesco’s father watched his son in silence as he carried on the company’s operations. It is not common to see such an intergenerational bond in modern operations, even family run ones. It was clear how the father’s eyes, two pools of intimate knowledge and passion of olive oil production, gazed at his son, reflecting on the workings of the business and the air of pride for his successor. The preservation of tradition is a fascinating and heartwarming aspect to witness firsthand. It was a pleasure to visit Frantoio Marfuga and be exposed to such passion for product that plays an essential role in the gastronomic topography of not only Umbria, but also our globalized world.